This post is about my experience with Raleigh ICS, what it is and why you should consider it.
Summer 2016, I spent 10 weeks in Tanzania with Raleigh International. Raleigh is a charity working on sustainable development as part of the UK aid.
“Raleigh International works to create lasting change through youth. The biggest youth population ever is inheriting a world with huge development challenges. By working side-by-side with communities, young volunteers have the power, energy and positivity to create and deliver solutions.”
Raleigh ICS Project
The set up of Raleigh ICS was very important to me. On the summer project (there are three throughout the year) there were 100 volunteers from the UK heading to Tanzania. We had pretty much booked a block on the Emirates flights to Dar Es Salam. The group stayed there for one night before being split into the WASH and Livelihoods teams (this information was already made available to us). In fact, I don’t think we saw the WASH people again until we got to the airport 10 weeks later!
Then the groups were taken to different places in the town of Morogoro and met with the Tanzanian team young people who were also doing the project with us. Most of them were from cities in Tanzania with some wanting some experience in business too.
The training lasted 5 or so days, where the team leaders and project directors looked at how we all interacted. We were then split into groups of around 14 or 16 people, a mix of UK and Tanzanian volunteers. With a team leader from each country too – it was good fun and then we got a final day of training as a group. Ours were numbered 1 to 8 and named Echo.
We then all started the 16 hours trip across Tanzania to Mbeya in our team minibuses. After staying the night there, we made it to our villages and were assigned our homestays.
Most places in our village have just one room and had specifics in which gender they wanted. My boyfriend’s village was different and he had to head to 3 homes before someone would take them in! Our food was paid for by the charity and the families had a small contribution given to them for our stay.
I was involved in a Livelihoods project in a rural village called Ndolezi. I have tried finding on google maps, but it is about 30 minutes drive from the town of Vwawa in South Eastern Tanzania and 65 km from Mbeya.
The village was home to around 3000 people, many of whom were young entrepreneurs. It was also very basic, with having to collect our own water from pumps, no electricity and basic toilets at best.
Picture this – We got excited when we saw ceramic squat toilets!
My village was also famous for being the location of the 9th largest meteorite to be uncovered in Africa. Many of the groups met up at the meteorite during the first couple of weeks. To find out more about this tourist spot, check the website here.
The Raleigh ICS Livelihoods project
With Tanzania’s young population (over 80% are under 24) the education we provided was key at helping the entrepreneurs to develop their ideas and passions. We had chicken keepers, animal feed, clothing shops and barbers… Every idea we could imagine was suggested.
The project itself was based on helping the young people understand how successful businesses work, helping them find niches in the market and understand the behind the scenes side of the business.
In the end, we helped each young person create a cash flow, business model and be able to pitch to business leaders for a loan of around £100.
We had many different people attend our training sessions, almost 40 over the 8 weeks we led the sessions.
Finally, after many weeks, our 16 remaining entrepreneurs pitched in front of a panel and 10 were initially successful on the day. An additional entrepreneur was given a loan too when the budgets had been assessed.
Then during the final week there, some of us went with the entrepreneurs to buy the items they needed for their businesses. I got to visit Tunduma on the border and buy solar panels with my entrepreneur. It was great to see their businesses starting.
We also stayed with a family within the village in homestays, who provided meals for us and really made the experience great. For someone to open their homes to strangers and to care for us the way they did. If you’re from the UK, the realities of long drop toilets and showering from a bucket of water are very far from home.
Secondary Raleigh ICS projects
The project was very successful, however towards the end many people in the group ad run out of things to do. Therefore, we had some room in the budget to do something else – so we decided to think of a few ideas that could benefit the community.
Our main secondary project was a huge chalkboard mural. We saw this as a place to make notes, hold village announcements and for Ndolezi to remember us by.
Another activity we got involved with was a whole village action and sports day. We had lots of activities and sports events for the children and I even ran a stall discussing women’s equality to the people of the village. It was a very enjoyable event.
The final area that we focussed on was promoting the use of chimneys in the wood fire kitchens. Every kitchen we went into had a wood fire, but very limited ventilation. Most of us struggled to sit in their kitchens for too long without our eyes streaming, something we all knew would be potentially dangerous to the people in the village.
We created a model of a chimney, explained how they worked and suggested to some of our entrepreneurs that this could be an option to stop their coughing.
The biggest struggles of Raleigh ICS
I will be honest, the whole 10 weeks weren’t all rosy and full of sunshine. There were hard moments, especially with the cabin fever that sets in.
With a group that small there are often issues with personality clashes and groups forming, which was something we dealt with in our group.
Also being away from home comforts for so long does sometimes make you feel a little bit sad or upset. Especially as we had no way of contacting home for most of the time. However, you have friends and it was a great time to learn about how well you work as a team and without home comforts.
The hardest thing for me personally was when I dislocated my shoulder! I have a whole post about this story but it was the worst thing to be in so much pain and away from home.
The best parts of Raleigh ICS
The cost is only £800 including flights, vaccines, accommodation, food etc and has to be fundraised. This is due to it being subsidised by the UK government.
Making friends, I made the best friends while I was there including Betina and my boyfriend. It was such a turning point in my life and really made me appreciate what I have.
The experience, on the whole, was one of the best parts, despite it being challenging at times, the food, the entertainment and even just existing while in Tanzania was a highlight for me.
The whole project was very much a grassroots funded programme which was more beneficial to the people and one of the government’s aims to avoid corruption. With the small grants offered directly to the entrepreneurs, we bypassed the politics of the local governments.
So why pick Raleigh ICS?
There are lots of choices of ICS partner projects so there is the option to pick one that suits your specific interests. Raleigh offers its ICS in Nepal, Nicaragua and Tanzania but it is only available to those aged 18-25!
The experience can be challenging, tough but also so rewarding. I also met my best friend Betina there and I can’t wait to go back to Tanzania to see her again! To anyone looking for a gap year or summer project, I would recommend ICS to everyone!
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